Felina found herself standing in the middle of a large chamber. It was decorated with elegant tapestries, several multi-story tall stone columns lined the perimeter, and candle-lit chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. Between each column was a free standing torchlight. Eery flames cast several shadows of herself on the polished marble floor.
In front of her, a violet carpet led up a half-dozen steps where a large and highly ornate chair rested. Its yellow finish shown brightly in the dim light, easily identifiable as gold, with multi-colored jewels glinting. It was a throne. And it was not unoccupied.
A lone individual was sitting on the throne, wearing clothes that seemed foreign and anachronistic. A cloth turban rested on his head. His eyes were closed, as if in concentration.
Despite the strange setting, Felina felt she recognized the place.
So familiar…but why?
And then she remembered. One day, seemingly an eternity ago, as a recruit sitting in class, there was a lecturer whose name she had long forgotten. The class was Enforcer History and Ceremony, and the material being discussed was the Battle of Nebelung.
“Megakat City was still a colonial settlement in its infancy,” the instructor explained as he paced back and forth in front of the seated group of recruits. “As a port city, being able to successfully ship and receive goods from across the ocean was of paramount importance.”
An old-world map hung on the blackboard behind the instructor, showing dotted lines illustrating the shipping routes.
“The Chartreux Pirates, notorious outlaws who roamed the high seas, looted ships all along the Katlantic Ocean,” the instructor continued. “They were very good at what they did, so much so, they were able to coerce cities into paying tribute. Those who paid the exorbitant fee would have their ships left alone.”
Just like a storefront paying the mob protection money.
“Megakat Colony’s governor, Jefferson Manx, like many others, was given an ultimatum by the pirates,” the instructor said. “‘Pay us tribute or your ships will be plundered,’ they said.”
“Now, Manx weighed his options, and decided to set an example, thinking that a quick decisive military action would be less costly than the tribute Megakat City would have to pay,” the instructor continued. “So, Manx consigned a fighting force, recruiting members out of the now legendary Zun Tavern. This force would be called the Enforcers.”
Felina had listened to this part of the story with interest.
“Now, rather than engage the pirates on the high seas, the Enforcers sailed all the way across the ocean and arrived at the shores of Nebelung. This was the pirate’s stronghold, where they had defeated the local government some years prior,” the instructor said. “In a cunning move, the Enforcers snuck into the country, allied with the displaced Prince Kamet of the Ottokat Empire, traveled for weeks on foot across the harsh desert, and with the help of a frontal assault from Enforcer naval forces, took Nebelung.”
“The battle lasted three days, and the Chartreux Pirates were defeated,” the instructor said. “Now the known world would no longer have to fear the pirates or pay into their extortion racket. Megakat City, by virtue of its Enforcers, had shown the world that though they were still a young establishment, that they could stand up for themselves.”
The instructor paused as he reached down to grasp the curved-hilt that protruded out of the scabbard attached to his duty belt. In a quick and well-practiced motion he drew the sword and held it out in front of him. The curved blade had a mirror-finish, Felina able to see hers and the other recruits reflection in it.
“As thanks for their help and in recognition of their bravery, the Ottokat prince presented Enforcer Battalion Commander John Sulfur with a scimitar-like sabre: a Mameluke sword,” the instructor said, rotating the blade as he spoke. “To this day, it remains a symbol of courage and duty.”
The memory faded as realization sank in. Felina was standing in the Great Hall of Nebelung.
And that means the person on the throne has to be none other than Prince Kamet.
“What am I doing here?” Felina asked, her voice sounding hollow.
Kamet made no response. His eyes remained closed.
Felina frowned, and began to approach the throne, each footstep echoing in the Great Hall. She reached the first step, noting how perfectly the violet carpet fit into the crevices. Looking up, she repeated herself.
“What am I doing here?” Felina asked again, this time more forcefully.
Kamet’s eyes opened. Each was a glowing orb, as bright at the sun, casting rays that engulfed Felina in twin spotlights. She winced and held up a forearm.
“Breathe,” Kamet said in a deep baritone from his seated position.
“What?” Felina asked, feeling the calm air beginning to turn into a maelstrom around her.
“Breathe!” Kamet shouted this time, causing the ground to shake.
Felina took a step back, losing her footing, as cracks began to appear along the marble floor. The large stone columns that lined the edges of the room began to wobble, and several of them toppled over. Chunks of debris spilled across the floor, knocking over the freestanding torches. The tapestries caught on fire.
Underneath Felina’s feet, one of the cracks spread out, and the floor began to cave-in on itself. She grasped wildly at the empty air, and found no hold, as she fell into a dark abyss.
“Just breathe,” a soothing, male voice said.
Felina slowly opened her eyes to find herself looking up at someone she did not know, but recognized as a member of the Fire Rescue Brigade. He was holding something over her nose and mouth. A plastic oxygen mask.
Felina nodded and inhaled, her lungs filling with the almost-pure oxygen, which made her head swim, still not sure if this was another dream.
“That was a pretty amazing thing you did,” the medic said.
Felina realized that her jacket had been removed, and several bandages were wrapped around her bare arms. She was lying on a lowered stretcher, situated on the sidewalk near the wreck. She craned her head and saw her motorcycle still parked, and the blackened remains of the minivan. Members of the fire brigade were in the process of cleaning up, coiling up large fire hoses. The street was wet.
“The girl?” Felina asked.
“A broken arm, smoke inhalation, a few cuts and scratches, but she’ll be fine,” the medic said.
“And her mother?” Felina asked.
“In serious condition. Had to call in a medivac chopper,” the medic said more somberly. “But, with a little luck she’ll pull through.”
One of the firefighters, carrying a hose over his shoulder, walked past Felina and paused, standing over her.
“This yours?” he asked, holding out an item.
Felina looked up to see her bayonet. It was blackened and charred.
“Yes,” Felina said, and held out her hand. “It’s a good luck charm.”
The fireman smiled and handed it to her, and then returned to what he was doing.
“So, what’s the damage?” Felina asked through the oxygen mask.
“You?” the medic asked. “A few first degree burns, some minor lacerations, and uh, well, you might need to see a barber.”
Felina sat up as the medic withdrew the oxygen mask, and reached up with her free hand to feel her hair, noticing that the longer lengths had been burned.
“It was time for a new haircut anyway,” she said as she bent her knee to bring her right boot closer, and slid the blade back into its holster.
Red and blue flashing lights caught Felina’s attention, and she looked to see a pair of cruisers come to a stop. Several Enforcer police officers exited the vehicles and began to set up a perimeter.
“Try to take it easy for a while,” the medic said, patting her on the shoulder.
“Sure thing,” Felina said as she stood up, feeling the aches in her body giving protest.
The medic rolled the stretcher away, and Felina began to take note of the surroundings.
It was after dark now, the streetlights providing a blue-tinted illumination. The Enforcer officers were marking off locations and photographing the wreck.
“Three-Five-Niner, what’s your situation?” the impassive voice of the dispatcher crackled.
Felina grabbed the radio mic which was dangling on its spiraled cord from her duty belt.
“Three-Five-Niner, situation is ten twenty-four,” Felina said into the mic, as she found her jacket lying on the curb. “Taking my lunch, over.”
“Ten-four,” the dispatcher replied.
Felina docked the mic on her belt and reached down to pick up the leather jacket. Several holes from where the broken window’s glass had jabbed into her remained, stains of her blood visible. She shivered, and realized how cold it was, and she carefully slid her bandaged arms into the sleeves.
One of the Enforcer police officers approached Felina, and whistled in a tone of amazement.
“I guess a little fire isn’t going to stop someone like you, is it, Lieutenant?” he said.
“It’s not Lieutenant, anymore,” Felina said, her mood souring. “What do you want?”
“Oh, uh, sorry,” he said and then thumbed through papers on a clipboard. “Just filling out the paperwork and need to get your-”
“Yeah yeah, my statement,” Felina said as she snatched it from his grasp, startling him. “You call in a tow yet to get that out of the middle of the street?”
“Yeah,” he said, collecting himself. “We’re done documenting the scene.”
“Then I’ll bring this to you when I’m done,” Felina said as she walked away from him, going closer to the remains of the minivan.
The officer shrugged and shook his head.
Felina flipped through the pages of the clipboard and used the attached pen to scribble in details, using as few words as possible to get her point across, walking and writing.
Occurrence at Essex and Ralston. Arrived at scene. Female occupant outside of vehicle. Child still within. Conducted rescue. Other vehicle…
Felina frowned, realizing she had never seen the second vehicle.
…remains at large. Unknown make or model. No additional witnesses.
Something crumpled under Felina’s boot, and she took a step back to see what it was.
On the gravelly street, half inside a pothole, was a small plastic segment, a little smaller than a frisbee. It looked like a jigsaw puzzle piece, but more important was the lettering on it. She reached down and picked it up, looking at it closer.
Sure enough, the letters MM were printed on it. Felina recalled the agitated person from earlier in the day at Precinct 58 complaining about his stolen truck, the same MM logo on his shirt, standing for Mel’s Movers. This piece of plastic was likely a part of a sign that broke off in the impact.
Well, Mel, looks like your case has my attention.
Bright lights from an oncoming vehicle interrupted her thoughts, and she turned to see a tow-truck pulling up and coming to a stop. She almost did a double-take when she saw the two individuals who exited.
What are the odds…
“…and then the guy runs out, screaming at us that we can’t tow his brand new Mercedes, swearing that the car payment was in the mail,” Chance Furlong said. “And then he hops into the car, mind you it’s half-elevated still, and he just floors it.”
Felina smirked as she ate a French fry covered in ketchup.
The tow-truck drivers, Chance Furlong and his friend Jake Clawson, had immediately recognized her. Apparently the accident had occurred in an area they provided tow services for. Officially, she knew Chance as the guy who had bought her a drink at Shenanigans and as a fellow prisoner who shared a cell in Dark Kat’s formerly secret lair at Megakat Caverns State Park. Unofficially, she also knew he was T-Bone, the SWAT Kat.
Chance had insisted the three of them share a meal together at Yolonda’s Supper Club, a nearby diner that lived up to its greasy-spoon visage. The floor was a dirtied astral plane checkered in black and white tiles. The booth seats were dark red leather cushions. Stainless metal tables featuring ridged chrome-lined edges were in-between them, with a large window overlooking the parking lot adjacent. Felina sat on one side of the table, while the two guys wearing overalls and baseball caps sat opposite.
The waitress had taken their orders and brought their plates in an abrupt and less than receptive manner, which Felina assumed was part of the place’s charm. Jake had barely said a word, letting his partner carry the conversation. He seemed distracted, stirring a spoon in his soup, in-thought. The check was paid, generously by Chance, though Felina had left a few singles on the table for a tip.
Callie was right, it’s really surreal to see them put on this act.
“The tires squeal in reverse, and nothing happens for a few seconds,” Chance said as he spoke with his hands, having already finished his cheeseburger. “And his front axle completely detaches. It’s hanging off the tow hook while the car goes slamming down.”
“I’m sure the repo company was happy about that,” Felina said.
“Not one bit,” Chance said with a laugh. “We’ve been blacklisted ever since, not that I really care. Repossessions never sat right with me, and there’s not enough money in it. Not for the kind of risks you’d have to take.”
“Anyone ever pull a gun on you?” Felina asked as she took a sip from a coffee mug, the warm caffeinated beverage tasting bitter.
“Let’s just say we’ve had our fair share of close calls,” Chance said, glancing at Jake.
Hearing his name brought up, Jake emerged from whatever thought was keeping him so engrossed.
“What? Oh, yeah,” Jake said. “We have lots of adventures out on the roads.”
“So, L-,” Chance began, but caught himself. “So, uh, Felina, what brings you out to this neck of the woods?”
“It’s part of my current patrol route,” Felina said, setting the coffee cup down gently. “Was pulling someone over on the 101, and saw an accident.”
“That minivan we picked up,” Chance said. “Looks like a nasty wreck. Did the driver…”
“Survive?” Felina finished the sentence. “Medic said they were banged up pretty bad, but they’ll make it.”
“That’s good to hear,” Chance said, and then eyed her damaged jacket that showed a few bloodstains and burns, no doubt noticing the condition of her hair. “I don’t suppose they have you to thank for that?”
“Just faithfully discharging your duties?” Jake asked.
Felina quirked an eyebrow. Jake had paraphrased a line from the Enforcer Oath of Enlistment.
“I guess you could say that,” Felina replied. “What are you getting at?”
Jake looked to Chance, the two exchanging some kind of wordless communication, and Chance sighed.
“Are you happy with the way you’re being treated?” Chance asked.
“What would you know about the way I’m being treated?” Felina asked as she crossed her arms, averting her gaze and looking out the window.
“It’s just, you know Jake and I are no strangers to being on the wrong side of an administrative decision,” Chance said, lowering his voice, the festive mood he’d been displaying gone. “I, err, we, just wanted to let you know that we sympathize.”
Jake nodded in agreement.
“Did Callie Briggs put you up to this?” Felina asked, not meeting their eyes.
For the first time Jake smiled and leaned back in his seat.
“Well, looks like we’ve been caught,” Jake said.
“Figures,” Felina said.
“The last time Callie dropped by for her tune-up she mentioned what happened to you,” Chance said. “I think what they did to you is a real travesty.”
“And you think that makes us kindred spirits?” Felina asked, turning her attention back to them.
“Well, I don’t see why not…” Chance began.
“Is there something you two want to tell me?” Felina asked, putting a little bit of an edge in her voice.
How stupid do you think I am? I know who you two really are.
“Just…” Chance started, apparently unable to find the words as he looked to Jake for help.
“What Chance is trying to say is that there’s other ways to protect and serve,” Jake cut in. “Ways that might require an open mind.”
Well, this is interesting.
“Oh?” she asked.
“We can’t really talk about it here,” Chance said. “But let’s just say that something’s come up recently.”
“Something bad,” Jake continued. “And you’re just the kind of person who could help us out.”
“You guys get into some kind of legal trouble?” Felina asked, deciding to play along.
“It’s more like the kind of trouble you and I had last year,” Chance said.
“Someone else you know get kidnapped by Dark Kat this time?” Felina asked with just a hint of sarcasm.
“It’s a little more serious than that,” Jake said, rubbing the back of his head nervously.
“You know where we live,” Chance said. “I think that when you get some time off, you should swing by, and we can better discuss just how bad.”
Felina raised an eyebrow, tempted to ask just exactly what their future topic of conversation would be, when her radio crackled to life.
“Three-Five-Niner, what’s you status, over?” the dispatcher said.
Felina frowned and held the mic up to her mouth.
“Three-Five-Niner at Essex and 53rd,” Felina said. “What’s the problem?”
“Suspicious vehicle sighted near 50th at Ralston,” the dispatcher said. “Requesting a unit to respond.”
“Copy that, Three-Five-Niner en-route,” Felina said as she stood up from the table, looking down at the two, both looking like they were awaiting a response.
“I’ll think about it,” Felina said as she walked away.
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Disclaimer: SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron is copyright to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc. All Rights Reserved. © 1995. All other characters and material within this page are the property of their respective creators.